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posted: 3/16/2014 8:00 AM

8th District primary among suburbs' hottest races

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  • Manju Goel and Larry Kaifesh are Republican candidates for the 8th Congressional District seat.

      Manju Goel and Larry Kaifesh are Republican candidates for the 8th Congressional District seat.

 
 

Eighth Congressional District GOP rivals Manju Goel and Larry Kaifesh started their campaigns seeing eye to eye on most every major issue.

Their shared criticisms of the Affordable Care Act as well as many other Democratic-driven economic policies seemed to provide a united front for the local Republican message in 2014.

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Distinctions between the two candidates boiled down to their professional backgrounds -- Kaifesh a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, and Goel a health care efficiency consultant.

But these personal differences quickly escalated into much more.

Goel, 48, of Aurora, lives outside the 8th District, as she's legally entitled to. But she began to criticize Kaifesh, 46, as a carpetbagger for quickly moving back to his native Carpentersville last fall after years of overseas deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, and a most recent address in Virginia while working at the Pentagon.

And when deceptive websites and social media accounts were created by an Indian-American SuperPAC founded two years ago by Goel's chief supporter -- Carol Stream businessman Shalli Kumar -- the gloves really came off.

Goel and Kumar denied any ongoing contact with or influence over the SuperPAC Indian Americans For Freedom, whose website and Facebook and Twitter accounts discrediting Kaifesh were meant at first glance to look like they were run by him.

With many calling on Goel to at least denounce the websites, she called a news conference last week to address the issue. But she instead said she had no specific guidelines she thought the IAFF should follow and characterized the sites as containing "accurate information."

Later in the week, Goel finally released a letter to the IAFF asking for the websites to be taken down, saying that while well-intended toward her, they were causing too much distraction from the issues.

Both candidates are now looking ahead to Tuesday's decision as to who will challenge Democratic incumbent Tammy Duckworth in the fall.

Elk Grove Township

The race for Elk Grove Township Republican committeeman pits a longtime member of the local Republican establishment against a young GOP activist.

Current Deputy Committeeman Art Niewiardowski, 47, a local business owner and the Elk Grove Township highway commissioner, has been endorsed by current Committeeman Mike Sweeney and the Elk Grove GOP's precinct captains and board members. Niewiardowski says his opponent, Scott Lietzow, is an outsider who doesn't have the experience or contacts within the community to be an effective committeeman.

Lietzow, 25, deputy political director for 10th District congressional candidate Bob Dold, says the current Elk Grove GOP is "nothing more than a breakfast club" that's done little to stem the tide of Democratic election victories.

Cook County sheriff

In the Democratic primary for Cook County sheriff, eight-year incumbent Tom Dart is being challenged by three men who've worked for decades in the department.

All three challengers say morale in the sheriff's department is low, and that the office is in need of a leader with hands-on experience in law enforcement.

Bill Evans is a current lieutenant with 23 years' experience. Sylvester Baker and Ted Palka are both retired, with about 21 and 30 years' experience in the department, respectively.

Dart, however, comes from a legal and political background. He was a prosecutor before serving in the state legislature, and then was chief of staff to former Sheriff Michael F. Sheahan for three years.

The most visible criticisms of Dart concern conditions at Cook County jail, chronically overcrowded and under federal oversight since 1980.

Dart has gotten national attention for advocating mental health treatment, rather than incarceration, for mentally ill people in the jail. But his opponents say Dart is a media darling whose initiatives get wide play while his failings aren't investigated.

Cook's 17th District

The GOP race for the 17th District seat on the Cook County Board has been a contentious one, filled with accusations between longtime incumbent Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman and her opponent Barbara Bellar.

Both candidates live far from the Northwest suburbs -- in Orland Park and Burr Ridge -- but have suggested solutions to flooding and economic issues that affect the entire 47-mile-long district, which includes parts of Des Plaines, Elk Grove and Rosemont.

Bellar, a doctor and a lawyer, brings up Gorman's personal financial issues including a bankruptcy filing in 2010. But Gorman says her experience working across the aisle on the board will help her continue to get things done for her constituents.

MWRD primary

There are 10 Democratic candidates running for the party's three nominations for the Cook County Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board, tasked with overseeing the county's stormwater management and flood prevention, and collecting and treating wastewater.

They are Frank Avila, 75, an incumbent from Chicago; Timothy Bradford from Olympia Fields; Tom Courtney, 42, an attorney from Chicago; Frank Edward Gardner, 24, from River Forest; Brendan Francis Houlihan, 50, a former commissioner on the Cook County Board of Review from Palos Heights; Adam Miguest, 23, a fundraising consultant for community nonprofit organizations from Chicago; Josina Morita, 33, an urban planner and community organizer from Skokie; Kathleen Mary O'Reilley, 57, an administrative assistant for Cook County from River Forest; Cynthia M. Santos, 52, an incumbent water reclamation district commissioner from Chicago; and John S. Xydakis, an attorney from River Forest.

One of the issues is the board's representation. Currently, only one commissioner on the nine-member board resides outside Chicago.

Santos, Courtney and Houlihan discussed the benefits of splitting the board's governance area into nine districts, one for each board commissioner. Santos suggested the districts might be based around the district's watersheds.

Avilia, Morita and O'Reily said creating districts would not improve the way the board is run.

Palatine fire vote

The Palatine Rural Fire Protection District has requested a 0.05 percent tax hike that voters can accept or reject Tuesday.

The district, which has approximately 17,000 residents in about 17 square miles, is in an area that includes two thirds of Inverness and most of the unincorporated area in Palatine Township.

The district lost $300,000 in tax revenue last year compared to 2012 because of a sharp decline in local property values, according to Fire Chief Hank Clemmensen.

He said the district took in only $3.33 million from taxes, meaning the lost revenue was about 9 percent.

If property values stay around $400 million, the tax hike would net the district $200,000 more per year, which Clemmensen said will be used to keep the district operating.

Should the initiative fail, the chief said the district likely will be unable to maintain its current staffing levels, with fewer firefighters going out on calls.

If the tax hike passes, a homeowner whose property has a $100,000 assessed value would pay an additional $50 in taxes per year to the fire district.

Long Grove roads

In Long Grove, voters will head to the polls to decide whether the village should issue the first property tax in the suburb's nearly 60-year-old history.

Officials say the tax -- costing the owner of a $750,000 home an extra $166 each year for the next decade -- would give the village a stable source of revenue for repairs to deteriorating roads.

Opponents say the proposal challenges long-held policies and could set a precedent of turning to taxation to solve problems that pop up in Long Grove.

Saddled with a $1.7 million funding gap for streets, officials also want to turn nearly half of Long Grove's roads private, making property owners along almost 13 miles pay for roadwork through special taxing districts. Or, neighborhoods could create homeowners' associations that would collect fees for road maintenance.

• Daily Herald staff writers Christopher Placek, Melissa Silverberg, Doug T. Graham, Katlyn Smith and Deborah Donovan contributed to this report.

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